The uphill battle Gov. Rick Scott faces in getting $85 million of job incentive funds approved by a reluctant Florida Legislature was hard to miss this week.
While new Enterprise Florida CEO and President Chris Hart IV on Wednesday afternoon made his for the Legislature to revive job incentives to lure businesses to Florida to create jobs, he had to do so while sitting next to a pair of ardent opponents, including one with ties to the Koch Industries.
Fatima Perez, regional manager of state government affairs for Koch Companies Public Sector, while testifying before the House Careers and Competition subcommittee, praised Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran for his opposition to giving tax incentives to private companies to spur jobs.
“I would tell you that Koch fully supports continued legislative efforts to end corporate welfare programs whether they come in the form of subsidies, mandates, or tax incentives among others,” Perez said.
Moments later Florida State University economist Shawn Kantor testified that incentive programs like what Scott has sought funding for are inherently unfair because they award some businesses over others.
“I’m not convinced they provide any benefit at all to the economy,” Kantor said.
It was after that, Hart, who has been on the job for just over a week, made his pitch to 15-member subcommittee, saying the incentive money does help Florida draw businesses to the state. Last year, the House rejected Scott’s request for $250 million to support that program and gave him nothing. This year, Scott has asked for $85 million.
The subcommittee’s chairman Rep. Halsey Beshears, R-Monticello, said he wanted Koch Companies to testify to make sure the subcommittee heard more than just support for the incentive programs.
“You can’t have a one-sided panel that is all for them,” Beshears said. “Here you have a huge employer that’s saying we don’t need corporate incentives to come to Florida.”
Beshears said a better use of state funding might be to invest in infrastructure and education - items businesses often list as top draws to relocate.